There’s no sugar-coated way to say this. We’re at a dangerous, cultural crossroads. Anti-LGBTQ organizations are emboldened by our current political climate, and our culture of misinformation. Organizations pushing ahead their agendas for Sexual Orientation Change Efforts, or Reparative Therapy, have an opportunity to manipulate the public, without people even recognizing this is happening.
Many LGBTQ people are scared right now. They’re unsure if they’re about to fall back into second, or even third-class citizenship. And LGBTQ youth is even more at risk. Imagine being a gay, lesbian, or transgender child, reading stories about increased levels of bullying and open discrimination. The shame that comes from this is the fertile ground for making people want to change the unchangeable. This shame is what will keep reparative therapy offices busy.
This shame is going to be tough to compete with. Today, there is a general confusion in our public. People aren’t sure where to turn for information. There is also a tendency to seek out information that validates how we already feel. We see it in our media, where our public is suspicious of reliable news and information sources. In this, they struggle to separate information into categories of real, false, manipulated, or true. This is leading to the oversimplification of many complicated, difficult issues. Advocates and allies of the LGBTQ community need to remain aware that this will impact them and those that they care about.
Organizations have a new gateway to manipulate those who are unaware. For example, an organization called The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity (which is a rebranded version of NARTH), manipulates several facts regarding teen suicide rates among LGBTQ adolescents on its website. They claim that stories of increased suicide risk caused by reparative therapy are politicized. They cite various statistics, which can appear as though they’re making an valid statement on the subject. However, they’re ignoring broader, more important variables on this subject. Developing adolescents reflect the norms that come from a larger society. Unfortunately, our culture continues to hold a negative view on open, authentic expression of LGBTQ people. This can lead to shame in adolescents. Suicide risk in LGBTQ youth is positively correlated with shame. Without that cultural structure, there is no need for Reparative Therapy, because these young people would just accept themselves.
Unfortunately, you can’t take a lot of information surrounding LGBTQ issues at face value. Anti-LGBTQ organizations are becoming sophisticated at how they’re marketing themselves. Reparative therapists are using various names and terms that sound open-minded, accepting and gentle. NARTH has rebranded itself as The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity. Science, integrity, and choice all sound pretty great. However, their science is invalid, which already cuts into their “integrity” argument. Their statement on choice is more relating to advocacy for “religious freedom,” than it is to client authenticity. In other words, they’re really only offering choices that reflect the agendas that match their values.
This organization is a prime example muddying information to sell a political, anti-LGBTQ agenda. They are manipulatively using a sex positive term, “sexual fluidity.” This manipulation is seen even in a new acronym that they are using, “Sexual Attraction Fluidity Exploration in Therapy (SAFE-T).” This sounds open to various examples of exploration of sexual orientation. However, the true advocacy that they are promoting is “openness” to heterosexuality or cisgender expression. Most LGBTQ people have already been “open” to that possibility, only to find that this isn’t who they are.
And yes, reparative therapists mix up gender and sexual orientation expression all the time.
The general public doesn’t necessarily know the specifics of how to separate sex positivity from sex negativity. Organizations such as The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity know this. They’re using trends in therapy and combining it the vulnerabilities of our current political climate, to say what they want, and to get what they want.
For every LGBTQ person in our lives, we can’t let organizations like this get away with this. Reparative therapists are starting to market “choice” as if it is counteracting another force. Yet, there is nothing but choice in LGBTQ-affirming therapy, which is the opposite of what they’re offering. With therapists who are affirming, clients are able to explore who they are. Affirming therapists don’t tell clients who they are, or how they need to express this. Instead, affirming therapy helps clients explore this for themselves.
So don’t take anything that reparative organizations are saying at face value. It’s dangerous to not dig deeper. Under the surface, you’ll find a much darker, deceptive truth. Despite saying that they’re promoting self-determination, they are reflecting societal shame that they perpetuate.